Preventing and Treating Viral Infections of the Respiratory System with Herbs
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about spreading concern over viral infections of the respiratory tract; specifically those caused by coronaviruses. At Homsted, we’ve been talking with concerned customers every day and this convinced us that we should post some information about herbal tools you can use to protect, prevent and treat possible exposure to viral infections, specifically those of the respiratory tract. In no way is this post to elicit fear or provoke panic. This information is also not meant to replace the information coming from experts on infectious diseases. It is only to discuss preventative and treatment options as understood by an herbalist. Herbal remedies offer some proven and effective options that you should consider when preparing.
How can plants help with viral infections?
Unfortunately, there are very few ways to ‘kill’ a virus. However, there are a multitude of ways in which plant chemicals can interfere with the process of finding, adhering to, and entering a cell. This is precisely where herbal medicines come in. Specific herbs produce specific chemicals that interfere with a multitude of virus processes. For example, elderberries, Chinese skullcap and ginger contain chemicals that bind with the protein sheath on influenza viruses, rendering them less likely to bind with human cells. If a virus does succeed in finding and adhering with a host cell, it then uses an enzyme (neuraminidase or sialidase) to break linkages in the cell wall and gain access to the inside of the cell. Neuraminidase inhibitors interfere with this process and many plant extracts are rich in them (Chinese skullcap, licorice, elder, ginger, etc). Pharmaceutical options (e.g. Tamiflu) rely on neuraminidase inhibitors as their primary mode of action. Once a virus gains access to the interior of a cell, things go from complicated to very complicated. Viruses utilize a variety of mechanisms to replicate, but plant chemicals are known to interfere or stop many of these processes, including but not limited to: lomatium's M2 inhibitors which stop vacuole/pore formation, Chinese skullcap's inhibition of RNA release, and many more. The point here is that plant posses a variety of chemicals that interfere with a variety of viral mechanisms. While pharmaceutical options typically target a single step in the process, certain plant extract and their inherent complexity have been found to obstruct viral process in a variety of ways.
Our suggested herbal protocol
First and foremost, reduce exposure by regular hand washing, avoidance of face touching, and good hygiene. These simple steps are more effective than any treatment protocol. Secondly, support your body’s immune system. This is important because the people at the greatest risk for severe infections have underlying health issues such as compromised immune systems. Our Shield line is specifically formulated to prevent infection by bolstering your body’s natural defense mechanisms. Our Shield tincture contains astragalus, elderberry and reishi extracts. These herbs are safe for extended use and provide an easy way to get the appropriate and frequent dose that is required for maximum protection. Our Shield tea contains elderberry, echinacea, rose hips, cinnamon and clove. You can sip on this tea throughout the day to make it strong and add honey to make a delicious tasting syrup that even kids enjoy. Our Shield essential oil blend is based on the age-old Thieves blend. Finally, we offer our most potent anti-viral blend of essential oils: our Anti-Viral Blend. It is formulated to provide you the most powerful blend of anti-viral oils for inhalation. If traveling, we strongly suggest loading a personal nasal inhaler with either Shield or Anti-Viral essential oils and using it regularly.
In the case that a person is exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g. coughing, fever, shortness of breath), step 1 is to consult a doctor, of course. In the herbal realm, we do, however, suggest switching herbal treatments to a more powerful blend of hard-hitting antiviral formulations. Our Anti-Viral tincture blend is formulated specifically for viral infections of the respiratory system. It is based on herbs with well proven antiviral activity, including some that proved effective during the SARS epidemic (which was a coronavirus) as well as influenza infections. It is based on a great deal of research and represents what we believe to be the most effective herbal tool for fighting viral respiratory infections. It should be noted, too, that certain viruses tend to elicit immune responses that lead to an ‘overactive’ immune response that, in turn, lead to a great deal of cellular damage. It is precisely this unregulated immune response that contributes to widespread destruction of lung tissue. Effective treatment of a viral infection of the lungs must also address this response. For this reason, we have also formulated our Immune Complex tincture. It contains herbs that regulate immune activity and inhibit HMGB1 release and block ‘cytokine cascades’ that lead to dangerously elevated immune activity. This formulation is a critical part of severe viral infections of the respiratory tract and should be used as a co-treatment alongside our Anti-viral formulation. Dosage for both these formulations depends on the severity of the infection. We also recommend continuing (or initiating) use of the Anti-Viral essential oil blend. Diffusers used in close proximity are ok, but steam inhalations (a couple of drops is hot water) or direct palm inhalation every hour or so are even better.
Herbs that are great at bolstering immune function and increase resistance to infection include: Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Ginger (Zingiber officinalis), and variety of others. Blends to consider include our Shield tincture, tea and essential oil blend as well as our Anti-Viral essential oil blend. If you suspect an infection, hit it hard and early with herbs including Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalinsis, NOT the much more common S. laterifolia), lomatium (Lomatium dissectum), osha (Ligusticum porteri), and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Support involved body systems with red root (Ceanothus americanus) and yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) (or find all these herbs is our Anti-Viral tincture blend). Finally, support healthy but reasonable immune function with herbs including rhodiola, astragalus and cordyceps (our Immune Complex tincture blend). Consider fresh ginger juice as a supplementary treatment during infections, too.